Contemporary carvings by Anangu (Central and Western Desert Aboriginal people) are known as punu, hand carved and decorated with walka, patterns burnt into the wood with wire heated on a wood fire. The animals all have their associations with the Tjukurpa, the stories of the Creation Ancestors and the activities which shaped the land, the people and their Law. Many of the details of Tjukurpa are restricted to senior custodians and it is not always possible to describe the stories involved.
Although the majority of animals carved on the lands are lizards some Anangu are increasingly specialising in stylised tjulpu tjuta or birds. All desert inhabitants, they range in size and species from the tiniest nyii-nyii or zebra finch to large walawuru, the wedge tail eagle. Other desert birds include:
kaanka, or crow, named for the sound of its call: ‘kaan kaan kaan’; pititjaku-pititjaku or pied butcherbird, a black and white bird native to Australia which has a beautifully melodic voice; kurparu or Australian magpie, another black and white native song bird; tjintir-tjintirpaor Willie wagtail, a small, black, white-breasted bird with a long, fanlike tail;and kipara or bush turkey, hunted for its delicious meat.
Long necked carvings are usually rarer depictions of the itinerant waterbirds which can be seen in desert country after rains.
Artist: Marlene Connelly
Language Group: Pitjantjatjarra
Location: Docker River, Northern Territory
Medium: 'Itara' - River Red Gum root, Eucalyptus camaldulensis